PLATE 1. Caricature carving by Harold Enlow of Harrison, Arkansas. Silver Dollar City, April 18, 2008.

Ozark History, Culture & Craftsmanship

by Joshua Heston

The Arkansas Ozarks are different from the Missouri Ozarks and I’m racking that difference up to “social and directional influences.”

That’s a fancy way of saying something really simple: The Arkansas Ozarks are in the Deep South. Up here in Missouri, there’s some ambiguity about where our mountains even lie. The Midwest? The South? The gateway to the West? For the Missouri Ozarks, nobody seems to be all that sure.

But down in Arkansas?

The answer is easy to come by. The Boston Mountains, Springfield Plateau, and the Ouachita Mountains are the Deep South’s westernmost mountain ranges, a rugged land of beauty and hardship, a last remnant of Native American culture, a place of deep hollers and longstanding hillbilly families, where the Santa Fe Trail from Fort Smith points the way of the setting sun.

It’s a Deep South culture with Antebellum, Cajun, Spanish and Native American influences… and a deep sense of identity. Gracious old cities like Fayetteville and Little Rock serve as counterpoints to the folk music valley of Mountain View (land of Jimmy Driftwood and the Ozark Folk Center) and the uniquely Southern Gothic city of Eureka Springs.

It’s a land of a proud people, extraordinary mountains and unique Ozarks culture. It’s also home to some of the best food you’re going to find anywhere; a menu heavy with okra gumbo, crawdads, rice, tomatoes with zucchini, fried chicken… and some of the best fruit pies around.

I’m getting hungry.


Ozark Craftsmanship

Joe Benjamin

Joe Benjamin by Joshua Heston Pen and ink artist, Joe Benjamin, is not only extraordinarily talented, but also one of the nicest of folks you’ll ever hope to meet. Five of Joe Benjamin’s 17 Silver Dollar City craftsmanship awards. Photo credit: J. Heston He and his wife, Janice, moved to Branson from the Quincy, Illinois,…

Shepherd of the Hills Country (1913-1960)

Shepherd of the Hills Country (1913-1960) by J. Thomas and Joshua Heston As Shepherd of the Hills became a bestselling novel, fans of the book began flocking to the Branson area. The visitors hoped to experience Shepherd of the Hills country for themselves. Locals latched onto the notion of making a living from this newfound…

Bois D’Arc Memories

Bois D’Arc Memories by Joshua Ong In the distance, I could hear the pounding of a drum and the hoots and hollers of people in the night. As I drew closer, I could see people dressed in animal skins dancing around a fire. Behind them stood a teepee. Occasionally the sparks from the fire would…


“All life was not dull work for James Columbus Booth. He was a musician. He had no musical training, but somewhere in his Irish and Scotch ancestry there must have been a harp or bagpipe player because Lum could truly make his old fiddle sing. He kept the instrument in a bleached, white muslin flour sack carefully laid in the bureau drawer. Inside the fiddle, he kept a set of rattles from a rattlesnake, ‘to help the tone,’ he explained.”

— Doug Mahnkey, Bright Glowed My Hills, School of the Ozarks Press, Point Lookout, Missouri 1968

PLATE 2. Sunset Ozark Trail. Photo by Joshua Heston, October 29, 2011.

Ozark History


Allegiances by Lisa Livingston-Martin (art by Lacey Finchum) “Federal riders!” Willie yelled as he came through the back door, stopping in the hallway, hands on his knees, gulping air. Elizabeth looked at William and he nodded. Neither questioned whether their seven-year-old grandson was mistaken. Elizabeth turned to Elvira, “You take the children and hide.” Elvira…


Plate 1. “Magdelene,” owned by Whitney Coffelt of Omaha, Arkansas, gives the photographer an inquisitive look toward the end of the evening. Cattle by Joshua Heston Whether raised for beef or milk, cattle have become one of the most ubiquitous animals of the North American farm. In fact, it’s hard to get any more American…

Farming Heroes

Farming Heroes by Joshua Heston Truck patches were special things, ripe with humidity, a hard sun and an occasional rattlesnake. Looking like nothing so much as a great big garden patch, truck patches filled with the everyday vegetables of the Ozarks — for picking, eating… and selling. There is cultural heritage — and then there…

Arcane Ozarks

Tales of Hogscald Holler

“Raw Head” or “Demon-Hog” by Lance Estep, 1988, charcoal Tales of Hogscald Holler by Lance Estep Adjoining Hogscald Holler is Durham Mill Hollow. This hollow has a large cave with walls — according to multiple sources — covered by petroglyphs carved by the Ancient Ones: the Ozark Bluff Dwellers who came before the Osage, Quapaw…

Elias Tucker Goes to War… Well, Sorta

Elias Tucker Goes to War… Well, Sorta BY DALE GRUBAUGH On the bank of Wilson’s Creek the battle lines had been drawn. We advanced a few feet, then upon command, we retreated a few. Moments later we were ordered to advance back to our previous position only to be pushed back to where we had…

Magic of the Hillfolk Herbalism

Magic of the Hillfolk Herbalism BY STEPHEN J. MEEK There’s magic in the plants of these Ozark hills. Third-generation herbalist Lisa Pluth notes plantain (Plantago major) has the power to heal a thorn in the flesh when used as a simple green bandage. Of the splinter she got, she says “After I put the plantain…